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  • Writer's pictureJan Weihl

Tradition vs God's Word (Matthew 15)

It's interesting how important traditions are to us. It seems like our human nature will go to great lengths to defend, protect, and practice our time-honored traditions. In fact, sometimes we mistakenly think tradition is Holy and is as important as God's Word.

In Matthew 15:1-3, the scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus and were upset to find His disciples eating with unwashed hands, "transgressing the traditions of the elders."

Matthew 15:2 "Why do Your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”

It almost makes me wonder if Jesus set up this scenario and had the disciples eat without washing their hands so that He could correct the scribes and Pharisees:

Matthew 15:3,7-9 And He answered and said to them, “Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?" [7] You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: [08] 'This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. [09] But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.'"

The ceremonial washings in question was a Rabbinic tradition, not Scripture. This was not about eating with dirty hands but ignoring ceremony.

Over the centuries since the Jews returned from their Babylonian captivity, hundreds of religious traditions had been added to God's laws.

The Pharisees and scribes saw "tradition" as equally important to God's Word. But Jesus corrected this error and told them tradition is not to be valued like God's Word.

Tradition is man-made and is not Holy (set apart by God).

I wonder if we all could easily be tripped up on this just like the scribes and Pharisees. There are definitely traditions that mean a great deal to me from our church back home that is not practiced in churches here in Omaha. It would be so easy for me to say, "they are not doing it right!"

The only problem with this is, I know very well that those "traditions" that I miss from back home are not Scripture. It's just tradition. It's not holy. It's not the only way of doing things. So I just need to focus on making sure I am obeying God's Word.

What about you? Are there traditions that you elevate as equally important with God's Word and get frustrated when others aren't following them? That's not what Jesus wants us to do.

Dear Lord, Please correct me when I hold on to tradition rather than focusing on Your commands in Your Word. Lord, please keep my eyes on You, Your Word, and loving others enough to tell them about You and Your great love for them. In Jesus' name, amen.

Jan Weihl

Living Word Ministries

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